A few weeks back we ate at one of downtown Napa’s newest restaurant installations, The Border.
The restaurant is operated by Pablo and Erasto Jacinto, who rose through the ranks working for the likes of local chefs Michael Chiarello, Cindy Pawlcyn and Donna Scala. With that pedigree and the promise of some authentic Mexican food, we were quite excited to give The Border a try.
The Dining Room: The restaurant space is very open and on the evening of our visit was brimming with patrons at the bar and in the main dining area. We noted immediately the open kitchen at the back of the restaurant, which enables you to easily see the cooks preparing meals.
In looking at the dining room a little closer, we noted the space and decor appeared to have not been updated much (if at all) from the previous restaurant that occupied the space, Tuscany. When we were seated and given our menus we noticed a “T” engraved on the leather bound wine list, which we immediately recognized as the logo for Tuscany.
We also noticed a faint “bar” smell that reminded us of our college days (not exactly what we were hoping to find on this particular night). Despite the fact that we were dining fairly late at night (for downtown Napa standards anyway) we noted a steady stream of patrons coming into the restaurant, many with groups of 6-8 people.
The Food: In perusing the menu, we opted for the Mexican Meat Balls ($6.95) to start and ordered the Red Chile Marinated Skirt Steak ($21.75) and the Grilled Rib Eye Tacos ($15.75) as our two entrees. The meat balls (4 pieces) were served in a bowl with tomato and chipotle chile sauce. The sauce had wonderful heat and flavor to it, however, the meatballs themselves were not much above average in taste and were actually on the smaller-side in terms of size.
The skirt steak was served with Oaxacan enfrijoladas and avocado salsa. The steak itself was tender and cooked just right (although the server never asked how we wanted it prepared). However, rather than being served with pureed beans and tortillas (which is what understood “enfrijoladas” to be), the skirt steak was served nearly floating in a plate full of whole black beans and their juices. The beans eventually overpowered the taste of the skirt steak, which was unfortunate.
The Grilled Rib Eye Tacos featured a cumin, coriander and garlic marinated rib eye and were served with cole slaw and Pico de Gallo on the side. The meat was done quite well, with nice flavor, savoriness and a solid balance of spices to round it out. This was definitely the better of the two entrees we had, despite being quite a bit less expensive than the skirt steak.
The Cork Board Rating: Overall, our dining experience at The Border was little more than average. The food was not awful, nor did we walk away feeling like we experienced something unique–and between the restauranteurs’ pedigree and the prices this wasn’t a good thing. Our combined rating for The Border stands at 2.5 corks out of 5.
If you’ve dined at The Border, we would love to hear your feedback.
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